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Logger who found remains of woman missing for 10 months: 'I wish someone could've gotten to her'

Remains found in 'extremely dense pine forest,' sheriff says
Posted at 7:36 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 19:40:50-04

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. -- The son of 51-year-old Frances Colbert says he's heartbroken after his mother’s remains were found Thursday morning, ten months after she vanished and about two miles away from her home in a wooded area.

But he's also grateful that the family can have closure and give his mom a proper burial.

Loggers from R.S. Bottoms were harvesting pines Thursday morning in Brunswick County, and Orlando Puryear was operating equipment when he noticed a shoe.

“I thought a dog had dragged some artificial leg in the woods, but when I looked closer I saw flies, so I got on the phone and called my boss,” said Puryear. “He came over and confirmed it was a human."

The spot was about two miles from Colbert's Railroad Street home in Lawrenceville, an area that several agencies had searched when she first disappeared.

“Extremely, extremely dense pine forest,” Sheriff Brian Roberts said. “We looked this morning. We had GPS trackers on and looked at our maps, and we were within 15 meters of her, but we just didn't see her."

Colbert was last seen alive on Oct. 16, while walking down the road hours after suffering a seizure. She was known to be a homebody, and officers were afraid she had wandered off.

They spent weeks searching the area, collecting evidence, down to finding fresh Nike shoe prints.

"We had State Police was down here, a search and rescue team, cadaver dogs,” said Roberts. “Hundreds and hundreds of people searching this area and thousands of hours, initially."

Months passed with no word.

Her son said he always had hope she'd walk back through the door, but says the discovery down the road at least will help bring closure to what had become an unbearable unknown.

"I'm sorry for their loss,” Puryear said. “I wish someone could've gotten to her before this happened."

Sheriff Roberts said they do not suspect foul play.

Colbert's body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond to determine her official cause of death.